As the campaigns progressed, a surprising number of conservatives switched their support to Obama. Thoughtful conservatives, already disturbed by the accumulation of blunders of the current Administration (the Iraq WMD, Katrina, the Justice Department scandals), culminating in its uncertain response to the financial crisis, were appalled at the iconic status that Joe the Plumber attained in the Republican campaign, the wild rumors spread by the conservative bloggers and talk-radio hosts, and the intellectual vacuity of many Republican candidates and advocates. The Republican Party seemed to have descended to anti-intellectualism–to deriding highly educated people who speak in complete sentences as “elitists,” as compared to the down-to-the-earth ignorance of Joe and his ilk–which sorts badly with the strong intellectual tradition of conservatism. It is a self-defeating strategy of conservatives to argue that “all” intellectuals are liberal and therefore conservatives should think with their guts rather than their brains.
For myself, I would be happy to see conservatism exit from the political scene–provided it takes liberalism with it. I would like to see us enter a post-ideological era in which policies are based on pragmatic considerations rather than on conformity to a set of preconceptions rooted in a rapidly vanishing past. We have accumulated a substantial history of liberal and conservative failures. The liberal failures include underestimating the cost of egalitarianism and of social engineering by judges (the Warren Court, Roe v. Wade, the near abolition of capital punishment), and the benefits of discipline, of punishment, of enforcing principles of personal responsibility, and of military force. The conservative failures include overestimating the efficiency of unregulated markets, the efficacy of military force, and the beneficent effects of religiosity. Liberals are wrong to promote unions (described by one wag, albeit with some exaggeration, as the parasites that kill their hosts) and conservatives to promote abstinence as a substitute for condoms in preventing teenage pregnancy.1
- Richard Posner : The Becker-Posner Blog : The Future of Conservatism — Posner↩